Music is a universal language. It influences all levels of human existence. It is a medium for communication, which can be both a pleasant and healing experience. Modern science and medicine are now rediscovering the healing powers of music. And music therapy – the specialised use of music in treating persons with special needs in mental and physical health, rehabilitation and special education – is gaining ground. In the West it is now an accepted form of treatment even within orthodox medical practice.
Music is an age-old part of Ayurveda, the holistic Indian science that promotes a happy and healthy lifestyle. From time immemorial, music has been a part of Indian culture. In the Vedas too, music has an important place. The Samveda is full of music. Doshas like Vata, Pitta and Kapha can be controlled effectively through music therapy. Great composers of Indian classical music have attempted music therapy down the years. Legend has it that classical music maestro Thyagaraja brought a dead person back to life with a composition of his.
It is believed that music stimulates the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous system and the flow of blood. To be healed by music, it is necessary to vibrate the cells of the body, for it is through these vibrations that the diseased person’s consciousness can be changed effectively to promote health. The right kind of music helps one relax and refresh. Even during the course of working, light music improves efficiency.
Listening to music helps control negative aspects of our personality like worry, bias and anger. In addition, it can help cure headache, abdominal pain and tension. Music therapy is one of the most effective ways of controlling emotions, blood pressure and restoring the functioning of the liver.
Music therapy is an efficacious and valid treatment for persons who have psychosocial, affective, cognitive and communicative needs. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the viability of music therapy even in those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Music is a form of sensory stimulation that provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with it.
Music therapists use music activities, both instrumental and vocal, which are designed to facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. Music therapy programmes are based on individual assessment, treatment lanning, and ongoing programme evaluation. Frequently functioning as members of an interdisciplinary team, music therapists implement programmes with groups or individuals that display a vast continuum of needs, from reduction of anxiety to deeper self-understanding.
Music therapists work with the interdisciplinary team to assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses. When individualised music experiences are designed by the music therapist to fit functional abilities and needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Clients need not have a music background to benefit from music therapy.
The Raga Research Centre in Chennai, India is currently making a comprehensive study of Indian ragas and evaluating their therapeutic potential with the help of musicians, doctors and psychiatrists. It is believed that classical Indian ragas can benefit a host of conditions ranging from insomnia, high and low blood pressure to schizophrenia and epilepsy. Research is also underway to understand how it can fight ageing and pain.
Music is capable of improving happiness, peace, health and concentration. It is, however, important to know the method and duration for which music therapy is to be administered. This knowledge can be obtained through regular experiments and experience. The first step towards this is the correct diagnosis of the disease and then the selection of the precise raga that will be helpful. Procedure, discipline and a systematic method will help achieve this goal.
Music can play an effective role in helping us lead better, fruitful lives. Listening to specific kinds of music at specific times of the day has been shown to be helpful in maintaining good health.
Indian music, with its many ragas, is known to be particularly therapeutic in value. The curative power of music emanates from the resonance of certain ragas on hormonal and glandular functions, which produce secretions that keep the body balanced and infection free.
For example, Ahir Bhairav helps indigestion, Asavari helps build confidence, Bageshri is good for insomnia, Basant Bahar for gall-stones, Bhairavi for rheumatic arthritis, Bhim Palas for anxiety, Chandrakauns for anorexia and so on… The list is long and quite comprehensive with detailed ragas for specific disorders.